Walking experience continues: in Bangkok

This is a continuation of my 'Walking experience' blog. Most of it written in the first year of the twentyfirst century! I thought let me sound a little pompous here. Crossing over to the new century seems like an important achievement!

'While you love the walks in North America, you wish for a warmer weather. you want to walk freely without having to wear all those heavy clothes.

Soon your wish to have warmth is granted as you are back again in Bangkok! Eager for a walk, you step out and realise that you have forgotten it is school time, the Soi (street) is full of cars, polluting the air as they wait to get into the two schools located next to each other. Thais normally drop off their children to school in cars. It is not just a status symbol, I have heard it said that it also a fear for the safety of their children!

Anyway you decide to continue the walk and as you get out of the apartment building. You are blocked by a mobile food stall parked on the pavement. In addition the electric poles with signboards fixed across them and barriers placed at the entrance of buildings also share the path. As you duck and weave your way down the Soi the pavement gradually narrows down to half a foot width!

At the junction you can notice that the policeman is concentrating on evacuating the soi choked with cars and as a pedestrian you understand you have low priority, you take a judicious chance to cross in between cars. The trick is to step out of the pavement just behind the car that has passed as there is some gap from the oncoming car. Not a big risk as the drivers are generally considerate here. I would not recommend it in Bangalore. An electric pole finally blocks the tapering pavement you are forced to step out on to the road. You have to be very careful here; there are darting motorcyclists who hate to slow down and there could even be a big van bearing down on you!

You walk past half finished buildings waiting for a better time now used as a garbage dump! Ugly tall buildings overshadow the nice old Thai style houses! The poles on the Soi support wires of various shapes and sizes. Some of them hang so low they are at your shoulder level. You wonder as to how both telephones and power supplies work as they do! You do see some odd plastic bags on the pavement, but still consider the Soi as reasonably clean! You are able to walk close to the compound walls, as there are no odd smells or tell tale stains you see in my garden city in India.

There are only a few pedestrians around, as generally Thais do not like to walk, and it is mostly the domestic help and the expatriates living close to the school who walk. Once you reach the main road, the pavements are wider again and a little better. They are also free from vendors early in the morning. It is a different story later in the day.

Once on the main road, you are reminded how, one day you had watched with horror an old lady let go of the wheelchair she was pushing gently, as she could not keep up with it as it suddenly sped down the slope. The wheelchair hit the road with a jerk as the junction had a small step! The poor young girl’s neck had snapped back and she had winced with pain. Apparently no serious damage done as they started moving again! It definitely is not easy for the wheelchairs in spite of the good intentions. The slopes are too steep and at some points width is just enough for a motorbike wheel and often telephone booths block their path! There is no way people on motorized wheel chairs can use these pavements on their own!

While you appreciate the efforts made to make the pavement ‘walker’ friendly. The pavement is not always level, bricks jut out and are loose at some points. I have noticed that blind persons walk on the road feeling the edge of the pavement with their sticks, they prefer to take this risk as walking on the irregular pavement is more dangerous! You are also cautioned about the green buses that bear down the main roads at great speed trying to beat the traffic lights as they turn from Green to red! Luckily there are a number of bridges for pedestrians to cross! But if you are old and infirm it is better you stay at home as there are hardly any pedestrian crossings at the ground level.

It is unfortunate that while the intention seems to be there, you see a lack of concern by the people who designed these roads and carelessness by those who made them. It seems that the much-vaunted Asian values are missing when it concerns the poor pedestrian! In spite of all this you conclude that walking is still reasonably safe and a pleasure if you learn the ways and are careful! Of course you must also love to sweat in the sweltering heat!'

I have not been walking so much these days, but I suppose I should add some pictures of soi 15 sukumvit to this blog when I return . I love this freedom to keep adding and editing a blog.


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